Recce and tips from my Pre-Caledonia Etape ride

Caledonian Etape Route Map 2011

Caledonian Etape Route Map

I’m riding the Caledonia Etape on Sunday 10th May 2015.

I rode it last year …and thoroughly enjoyed it – fantastic scenery, some challenging climbs, closed roads, literally thousands of other cyclists, great support and very, very well organised.The town of Pitlochry had been turned into a cycling mecca for the weekend complete with a base camp area of sponsors tents, service providers, masseurs, bike retailers etc. The locals were fully behind the event and incredibly warm and welcoming – what’s not to like?

Queens view by Douglas Corrance and Still Digital

Queens view by Douglas Corrance and Still Digital

So I’m going again this year ….

Wisely, I decided to go and “do” the route this past weekend to remind myself of the realities of the route instead of the rose tinted foggy eyed reminiscence that I was obviously deluding myself with.

So here’s my watch list of tips for anyone who hasn’t done the Etape before….

1. Get fat

The Scottish roads put up with a whole load of crap weather and regularly get beat up even during our so-called “summer”  weather. The route has recently had some potholes filled and so on – so is in relatively good nick.

I was, however, getting a lot of road buzz coming up to my hands through the front forks.

The road immediately out of Pitlchry heading north is fine, it’s once you turn left over the Tummel Bridge that the chips in the road surface become more obvious – it’s not harsh – definitely nowhere near cobble classics or anything – but just enough road buzz to kill your hands over the long ride if you have a stiff set up. It was more than I remembered from last year and I couldn’t tell if it was down to my new wheels or something else … advice is go up to 25’s if you are sporting 23’s or fatter if you can manage it between your wheel and your frame.

2. Layer up

On my day out on Saturday the weather was kind, even sunny in parts. It was however very cold at about 3 degrees. I’ve never really been bothered by cold but once you get past the Queens View part of the ride, which is sheltered by trees, you drop down to the edge of Loch Rannoch and ride around it’s circumference.

Beautiiful Loch Rannoch

Beautiiful Loch Rannoch

Tree cover is patchy and the road is very open to the elements. A cold ride felt even colder when the wind came down the hill.  Take extra layers – you may not need them…I hope we don’t –  but we might. The Scottish weather is notorious for being quite micro climate like and the weather in one valley may be very different from the valley you are leaving behind. You may get 4 seasons worth in one day…just saying.

frozen riders in 2013 milan san remo its actually from the Milan San Remo but you get the drift…(get it?)

3. Scheihallion – there’s snow on them thar’ hills

This beautiful mountain dominates the Loch Rannoch area and is visually striking in its almost pyramidal shape to its upper slopes. On Saturday, the upper slopes were still covered in snow. Not enough to block the road that the route goes up and over – it was fine, but it goes to show that on the upper levels – going over the high pass into the next valley -air  temperatures do drop.


Scheihallion by Richard Paul –

4. Get mechanical – check your bike

I got into trouble almost immediately after Kinloch Rannoch when ascending up through “that twisty bit” with the steepest slopes at the base of Scheihallion. Basically, when on my inner ring, my chain was slipping awkwardly on my rear cassette, which meant I couldn’t maintain an even rhythm or momentum. There was too much chain dop and some links need to get removed. This is on a bike with a relatively new chain and cassette, that had been serviced within the last few months – so problems  were not expected. Needless to say – a stripdown and re-build will be happening this week. I confess, I ended up walking up some of the steeper sections as I was fearful of breaking the chain if I put the pressure on and it slipped again. Bike TLC required.

Thankfully I’m quite handy on cycling mechanics and have a good set of tools so a strip down and clean is no bother for me. Others may prefer to get others to do it for time or peace of mind reasons – either way get your bike checked out / serviced.

5. Take plenty of food /water.

On my return, my Garmin estimated a calorie consumption of just under 4000 calories for the ride (I’m a big guy as cyclists go). That’s more than a days worth of calorie intake – so make sure you’ve got food / water to take care of yourself if for any reasons the foodstops aren’t available or are too busy  / have run out. Note:- This has never happened in my experience, but you really don’t want to bonk on the return leg, as the road is open, always contrives to have the prevailing wind in your face and there’s a nasty legbreaker steep ascent  when you turn left to head northwards back to Pitlochry within the last 7 miles. You need your good legs on for that one – but thankfully its short and sweet.

It looks deceptive – and its very short when you turn the corner but gawd it hits at your tired legs…..

6. Brake!

The Scheihallion descent is long and flowing but like all good things it comes to an end …with two tight corners, one of which is almost a right angle turn. Hitting 48-to 50mph on the downhill is easy, ……just remember you have to be able to stop and unknown obstacles may be in your way.

Sadly, I have not yet gone down the slope without an ambulance or paramedic team being present somewhere on the road tending injured riders who have gone off through fences / hedges etc. And rear ending an ambulance is a distinct possibility if you’re not paying attention.

So heads up! Eyes peeled! Use your brakes, stay away from other riders (they can come to a sudden slowing / stop too!), and stay safe.

7. Lastly…

But most importantly –  go easy to begin with, lift your head up and see the fantastic scenery you’re riding through – its some of the best of Scotland.

I really hope you enjoy the ride.


The Truth and Nonsense of the N+1 Principle of Bicycles

I saw this it made me laugh ….Can you have too many bikes ?
Yes …..but only if you find you are not using them very often… a bikes purpose is to be used isn’t it …are do we collect them as works of aesthetics we just want because they are beautiful as well?
See the attached blog on “N+1 rule of bike acquisition ….”
Me? I’m just jealous of the authors noted collection of bikes …and the fact that he keeps them in the dining room…..LoL.

If you’ve been around bikes long enough, you’re likely familiar with the “n+1” principle. Velominati describes it as follows:

The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.

While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.

I became quite caught up in the n + 1 principle in my early days as a bike enthusiast, although I did not know it had a name. My stable quickly grew from one Fuji road bike to a road bike + fixed gear + light touring bike + a commuter/touring bike + folding bike + single speed folding bike + you get the idea.

As cycling became one of my central activities, bicycles…

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Froome getting back on form earlier than expected

I saw Froomeys fantastic acceleration up the hill ….and knew he was chasing Contadors 27 seconds. I was bouncing up and down on my seat in time to his cadence all the way up to the finish line – getting so tense, waiting for Contador to re-ignite his afterburners. Despite Contador giving chase, Froomey managed to get over the line 1 second ahead of Contador and I cheered so loud you could hear it way down the street. Way to go Va Va Froome !!!


From the great

Feb 21, 2015 – Chris Froome produced a stunning breakaway up a steep summit finish on the 199.8km fourth stage of the Ruta del Sol to take a two-second lead over Alberto Contador into Sunday’s final stage.

Contador had held a 27-second lead over the 2013 Tour de France winner after winning their first battle of the season on a mountain finish in Friday’s third stage. However, Froome had his revenge on the gruelling 4.4km climb to the finish line at Alto de las Allanadas to take the stage in 5hr 08min 54sec and grab the narrowest of advantages over his Spanish rival.

Contador was second with Froome’s Sky teammate Mikel Nieve back in third. Froome is now firm favourite to claim the overall win as the final 169.8km stage from Montilla to Alhaurin de la Torre is likely to be decided among the sprinters.

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Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 14.41.36

Dear City of Edinburgh Council, As a user of the City of Edinburgh road systems, as a pedestrian, as someone who rides a bike and as someone who regularly drives within the city limits,  I am impressed with the CECs stated intent to increase the the amount of trips made by bike to 10% of all trips by 2020. It is a shame then that experimental traffic orders ETRO/14/38B and/or ETRO/14/38A are being proposed which aim to reduce and phase out the use of bus and cycle lanes in some areas of the the city, with 22kms of busy roads being affected.

I am deeply UNIMPRESSED with this.

Dear Reader

Did you know about these plans? No – I didn’t think so.

Please check out Spokes informative and excellent  pages on the following weblinks:-
If you agree that these orders should be objected to – (and I trust that you do), then please email before 18th February 2015
and confirm in writing that you are formally objecting to ETRO/14/38B and/or ETRO/14/38A
– I attach my own objection below as an example.  Please make sure you include your name and address in your email.

” I write to record my formal objection to the experimental proposals put forward in ETRO/14/38B and/or ETRO/14/38A, and to request that these experiments in peoples road safety are abandoned before it is too late.
I am gravely concerned about these proposals for a number of reasons, political, practical and subjective which I am outlining in brief, as follows:-
1. A total of 22km of all-day bus lanes will be affected – and it appears that little or no thought has been given to the impact on pedestrians and cyclists. Bus lanes are not just bus lanes – they are bus and cycle lanes and form an important buffer between heavy vehicular traffic (such as lorries) and pedestrians. 2. It is contrary to CEC’s own policies. The Council is succeeding in the excellent policies of its Local Transport Strategy [LTS] – to increase walking, cycling and public transport use, whilst reducing car use.  In the current LTS, Policy PubTrans1 says the Council wishes to give buses priority over other motorised traffic.  Policy PubTrans7 says the Council will where possible enhance the bus lane network. Now they are proposing something that is contrary to their own policies and putting the hard-won Edinburgh bus/cycle lanes at risk. This proposal will reduce CEC’s ability to move towards a publicly proclaimed target of 10% of all trips by bike by 2020. 3.This will greatly increase the chances of an accident and actual bodily harm to people using bikes and to pedestrians near the kerb. 

3A Impact on people using bikes. The CEC’s own LTS begins its Cycling section [9.2] by saying, “The attractiveness of cycling is dependent on the degree to which the road network is dominated by moving or parked motor vehicles.” Until we have segregated cycle facilities on arterial roads, bus lanes provide a wide area of roadspace in which this “domination by moving or parked vehicles” is significantly reduced.  Off-peak lanes are really important when using a bike for shoppingschool travel, and a multitude of other offpeak journey types. Many of these trips are by the less confident cyclist, who is understandably deterred by the constant presence of cars and lorries but can just about cope with the occasional well-trained Lothian Buses driver. A council with a target of 10% of all trips by bike in 2020 (not just commuting trips) should not be removing this facility – or, at least, not until segregated cycling provision is mad.The Council also proposes to allow motorcycles in bus lanes (at all times). This is likely to reduce the attractiveness of bus lanes for cycling, thus cutting use, contrary to the council’s own policies and targets.

3B Impact on pedestrians – particularly children. The CEC’s own LTS begins its walking section with policy Walk1, “The Council will seek opportunities to improve pedestrian facilities…”The downgrade of bus lanes does not appear to directly downgrade pedestrian facilities, yet that is exactly what this proposal will do for 22 kilometres of footway along Edinburgh arterial roads.  Instead of being separated from the footway by the bus lane, lorries and cars will be right next to it throughout the off-peak day and all day Saturday.  This means increased pollution, noise, splashing, scariness and, on occasions, danger. Finally, the council’s plan to abolish off-peak bus lanes will particularly hit school children walking home as well as families out walking to the shops or the park on Saturdays.

4. It increases pollution risk  – Edinburgh City Council faces increasing problems over toxic traffic pollution, with several roads now exceeding EU safe limits and estimates by Health Protection Scotland of 200 premature deaths a year as a resultToxic pollution (like noise pollution) declines rapidly with distance, so bus lanes are likely to reduce the pollutants breathed in by walkers and, to a lesser extent, cyclists using the bus lanes. Allowing lorries and cars into bus lanes just when children are most likely to be using the footway is a very retrograde decision.

5. Lastly, but importantly, The Council is implementing these proposals without prior public consultation.  Of course, people can object to the Traffic Regulation Orders but few people actually know about them.  In contrast, the Council did consult in advance in affected parts of the city over the 20mph plans, Leith Walk plans, the Quality Bike Corridor, the City Centre, School Streets, and so on. There appears to be an attempt to slip this set of ETRO’s in under the radar. The public should be properly informed and a proper consultation put in place before orders of this nature should be made.
As someone who has children, is a resident, a citizen, a regular pedestrian, bike user and a regular car driver in the city of Edinburgh I consider these steps to be retrograde and dangerous experiments which will result in our road systems becoming more  dangerous as a result. Please therefore formally record my objection to ETRO/14/38B and/or ETRO/14/38A, and give due consideration to cancelling them before it is too late.”
Thank you all

City of Edinburgh Council experimenting with road user safety and seeking to phase out bus and cycle lane use on the fly

Date with the foam roller

I haven’t blogged in bit and this blog caught my eye, as it is quite topical to me .

In my advanced age in life, I’ve noticed these twinges and tightening up of back and hips of late and have started going along to an Ostepath for stretching exercises etc .

She recommends yoga, pilates and the use of foam rollers to help unkink, loosen and stretch the muscles that are getting tightened up ….

So this video is a good find and my thanks go to Tempocyclist for posting about it ……

Tempo Cyclist - Tasmania

Following a training block of mostly intense turbo sessions, my legs are feeling the build-up of fatigue. They’re especially tight and “achy” this week. Something I tend to neglect is a routine of stretching and foam rolling. Unfortunately I don’t have the budget for my own personal in-house sports masseuse so the next best thing is using a foam roller. This video from Garmin-Sharp outlines a good routine for cyclists:

If you’ve never used a foam roller before it can be a painful experience, but it’s a good type of pain! Or maybe that’s just me? Regular foam rolling is great for loosening stiff muscles and massaging away any knots or tight spots. Make it part of your regular routine and reap the benefits (I should really follow my own advice).

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Can we please forget about Lance now – and deny him the oxygen of world media exposure? Yes – Armstong still haunts professional cycling – because he craves attention. Please, please, can we ignore him now…..? No we can’t apparently – because he keeps bloody well popping up in the news every now and then whether we like it or not …..either as part of concentrated means of getting his message across…. BBC interview for example …. Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 09.37.58   or because he keeps making statements to the public…. Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 09.40.04   or simply because he’s been caught lying again … Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 09.49.52 It seems like our friendly cycling hero / bully isn’t learning from the previous edicts and sentences passed down to him… he. SO could the media please do us all a favour ? Take note – We don’t want to hear anything more from this man RANT over….. Now lets get on with our lives and NEVER talk about him again ….ok? Sigh…..

Stokoe's Blog

Stokoe’s Blog brings the curtain down on the debacle that was Lance Armstrong.

It was an era that cycling will want to forget and move on from. Introducing part four:

Is Armstrong the ghost that still haunts cycling?

We have seen what Armstrong has put the world of cycling through, it has been a tough couple of years, and it might just be that the hardest months are yet to come.

Should Armstrong get his titles reinstated?

“It’s not for me to say. If I’m not the winner… I think there has to be a winner. I’m just saying that as a fan”

I get it, winning is everything in sport, why else would sport stars put their body through the pain.

But there is winning and then winning illegally, and that is exactly what Armstrong did hence the reason why his Tour titles have been taken away, he does…

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Lance Armstrong Special – Part Four